The boss of Johnston Press is confident that advertising “duopoly” Google and Facebook will be pressured into helping out the newspaper industry.
Ashley Highfield, chief executive of JP and chairman of industry body the News Media Association, is hopeful that the digital giants will help promote established news website content over other sources of news.
“A win-win would be where Google and Facebook tweak their algorithms to promote quality, trusted content,” he told City A.M. after JP reported its half-year report today. “They win in their fight to persuade the government they’re taking fake news and promotion of terrorism and other issues seriously. And we win, and advertisers win.”
Asked if he thought the pair were likely to make such a move, Highfield said:
I think that they recognise the enormous amount of pressure that the government, advertisers and publishers are putting on them. And I think that if they recognise this is win-win, that genuinely it’s in democracy’s interest as well as their interest to promote quality content from trusted sources, then they will… I think it’s called enlightened self-interest, isn’t it?
Highfield struck an upbeat tone as JP this morning reported revenue growth when excluding classified advertising turnover, which plunged 29 per cent. “In the context of the broader industry trading environment where print classifieds in particular are in continued significant structural decline, we are focused on creating a business for the future,” Highfield said. Minus classifieds, revenues were up five per cent from £81.9m to £85.6m for the six months to 1 July.
Johnston Press was particularly keen to highlight the performance of the i newspaper, which it acquired from the owner of the Independent for £24m last year.
The newspaper’s revenue for the six months was £14.5m, up 28.6 per cent on the same period last year, while earnings were reported at £3.7m.